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How Andrew Thomas went from freshman to filmmaker with Toon Boom
The mere mention of the word ‘college’ evokes images of poster-filled dorm rooms, frisbees on lush lawns and red brick wallpapered in ivy. Alas, that’s as unrealistic as it is romanticized. For animation students, college is Cintiq tablets, light boxes in dark rooms and long hours on short films.
This is certainly true for Andrew Thomas. A self-described animator, illustrator and designer, his body of work includes freelancing on 10 published children’s books and education pieces — all done before he could legally drink. Source: Andrew Thomas.
While the 19-year-old has the portfolio, he knew he needed postsecondary education to reach the studios he dreamed of working in. He enrolled in the animation program at Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD), and just finished his freshman year with a concentration in 2D animation. The 120-credit program covers everything studios are looking for including digital drawing and pipeline management, and counts leaders at Disney and Nickelodeon among its alumni.
As a Toon Boom Centre of Excellence, CCAD trains its 2D animation students in Storyboard Pro and Harmony. Understandably, any software can seem daunting to a first-year —and first-time— user like Thomas. Not only did he round the learning curve, but successfully completed his first short film, “Off to Oz”.
You read it here first: Andrew Thomas is going to do great things. We spoke to the talent of tomorrow about his first year at CCAD, the experience of learning Toon Boom from scratch and what advice he would give to future animation freshmen.
Hi Andrew! Tell us about why you got into animation.
AT: Animation has always been a huge part of my life and I’ve become increasingly infatuated with the medium as I’ve gotten older. I’d really like to bring my experiences working with children’s books into 2D animation and create awesome, visually appealing stories for that audience.
What was your relationship like with animation growing up?
AT: I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that animators can create things that aren’t possible in reality. I’ve also found that creating is really empowering for me personally. In middle school, I started making some silly comics that eventually evolved into animated shorts. The notion that I could make those come to life and tell stories through them became an obsession.
Why did you decide to go to CCAD?
AT: I visited CCAD in the summer of 2015 and loved the campus. I was amazed at the number of Cintiqs and the faculty was clearly passionate about the students. Charlotte Belland, who chairs the animation program, spoke at my freshman orientation last summer and I’ll never forget the enthusiasm she had for helping students. That’s when I knew this was the place for me to grow artistically and professionally.
How was your first year?
AT: It was everything I hoped it would be. I made a few films that I’m really proud of, worked with some amazing people and learned a lot from the faculty here. My animation fundamentals professor Tom Richner worked on “The Simpsons” as a storyboard artist, which was insanely cool for me having grown up a huge fan of the show. He worked with me a lot individually this semester to really refine my skillset in so many facets and was a great mentor. The faculty here really wants you to succeed.
How did you find learning with Toon Boom 2D animation software?
AT: It’s strange thinking back on it, but I was hesitant to use Toon Boom at first. I didn’t know if I would be able to grasp the interface and complexity of it. Honestly, Toon Boom has become second nature to me in just a few months of use.Source: Andrew Thomas.
Our animation program has an excellent relationship with Toon Boom and all of the faculty members are well-trained in it. My best advice to anyone considering using Toon Boom is just to dive in and create something! It’s an intuitive, well-designed program made for animators, with tons of tutorials and resources online.
The short you created in Toon Boom is great! What inspired your take on “The Wizard of Oz”?
AT: My twin brother is a cinematic arts student at CCAD and I decided we would take on a scene from “The Wizard of Oz” for my final film. He wrote the script and played a big part in putting the film together in post-production. “The Wizard of Oz” exemplifies excellent storytelling and I wanted to honour that in my short film.
How did you find working with Toon Boom on your short film?
AT: Working with Toon Boom on “Off to Oz” was great. Being able to plan out my film in Storyboard Pro and then bring those files to Harmony is really convenient. The workflow I was able to establish on this film allowed me to focus on the story and on the artwork, which was crucial considering the tight five-week production schedule.Source: Andrew Thomas.
Now that you have a taste for filmmaking, what dream studios would you like to work for someday?
AT: I’d love to work at Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon. I plan on applying to their internship programs when I become eligible in a couple years! I know from many of the faculty that Toon Boom is a real staple of the industry today, so I think that my ability to work comfortably within Storyboard Pro and Harmony is definitely advantageous.
What advice would you give to animation freshmen starting next September?
AT: Always be creating something — always be telling stories and thinking of creative ways to tell those stories. Also, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! Your favourite animators likely got to where they are today by constantly pushing themselves and working with other great artists. Ask questions, seek help from mentors, and take all constructive criticism and really process it. Then, identify how you can utilize it to improve your work!
Do you have a story about learning animation you want to share? Tell us in the comments below or email it to pmak@toonboom!